The Difficult Dozier Decision
Image courtesy of Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports“I’ll Be A Free Agent”
Dozier made it clear to the assembled media last week that he is heading into free agency. When the Twins signed Dozier, it was certainly a unique contract. He signed a four-year contract for $20 million that bought out the remainder of his arbitration years. For the Twins, it created some cost certainty. For Dozier, it allowed him some financial stability, he got to avoid the messy arbitration process, and he knew he could enter free agency in his early 30’s.
This offseason’s free agency period has been strange to say the least. Yu Darvish, the biggest name on the free agent market, took his time in selecting a new home. Even after his signing, the market has been moving slowly despite spring training being well underway. While the free agent class wasn’t one of the best classes in recent memory, there were some names that should have drawn interest.
There were very few second baseman on the free agent market and not many of them were of the same caliber as Dozier. Players like Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips aren’t exactly going to be huge difference makers for a team. Former Twin Eduardo Nunez is the lone second baseman to sign. A year after hitting .313/.341/.460, Nunez was able to sign only a one-year, $4 million deal.
According to FanGraphs, Brian Dozier has been worth 14.2 WAR over the last three seasons. That means he’s been worth roughly $113 million over that span. Nunez has been worth 5.9 WAR and $47.4 million during the same time period. Dozier is one of the best offensive players at his position and he won his first Gold Glove last season.
Since 2006, there have been few second basemen who have been able to score big free agent contracts. Baseball Prospectus found five second basemen to get more than $25 million as free agents. Only Ben Zobrist (4 years, $56 million) and Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million) brought in over $40 million.
It’s clear to see Dozier’s value but his age going to start playing a factor.
Better With Age?
Dozier fits the definition of a late-bloomer. His breakout season came at Double-A when he was 24 years old. He wouldn’t make his big league debut until age 25 and he wouldn’t play a full big league season until he was 26. He hit under .245 in each of his first three big league seasons and never had an OPS higher than .762.
Over the last two seasons, his OPS has jumped to .886 (2016) and .856 (2017) while averaging 38 home runs per year. I’ve been critical of Dozier’s defense in the past but his defense made remarkable strides last season. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, only Ian Kinsler ranked better than Dozier among AL second basemen.
Many of Minnesota’s top prospects currently play shortstop and Jorge Polanco is coming off a strong second half. Royce Lewis, Nick Gordon and Wander Javier all could shift to second base if Dozier finds another home for 2019. If Polanco can continue to play well this year, a starting middle infield of Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco seems a likely scenario for next season.
Considering Dozier’s age, and other options in the system, it seems likely for the Twins to say goodbye to Mr. Dozier. Younger players are going to be ready for the big league level. I believe Dozier’s veteran presence is something that also can’t be overlooked. A team trying to contend can’t be made of all young and unproven players. However, the front-office still has a difficult Dozier decision.
Do you think it’s time for the Twins to say bye-bye to Brian Dozier? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Blake, Oldgoat_MN, Sconnie and 1 other like this